Patriots 24, Eagles 21
MUCH OF THE SIGNIFICANT pregame hype for Super Bowl XXXIX centered around whether Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens would play after suffering a leg injury late in the season, but it was another Philadelphia receiver, Freddie Mitchell, wholl forever be linked with this game.
Mitchell taunted the Patriots specifically safety Rodney Harrison providing a weeks worth of bulletin board material. Naturally Harrison used the slight as motivation nobody plays the disrespect card better than he.
As it turned out, neither Owens (9 catches, 122 yards) nor Mitchell (1 catch, 11 yards) had much of an effect on the final outcome a 24-21 Patriots victory.
The receiver that made the biggest impact? That was Deion Branch, who collected 11 Tom Brady passes (for 133 yards) and the MVP trophy.
The Eagles struck first when L.J. Smith hauled in a 6-yard touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb. The Patriots countered when Brady connected with David Givens on a 4-yarder and the teams headed to the locker room deadlocked at 7-7.
It was tied again after three quarters (14-14) after Mike Vrabel snared a 2-yard Brady delivery and the Eagles followed with Brian Westbrooks 10-yard pass from McNabb.
Corey Dillon, who was enjoying the first playoff run of his career, put the Patriots back on top with a 2-yard rumble in the fourth quarter. Dillon had a game high 75 yards on 18 carries. The defending champs extended the lead to 24-14 when Mr. Reliable, Adam Vinatieri slammed a field goal home from 22 yards.
The Eagles wouldnt go down without a fi ght, however, and clawed back in it when McNabb connected with Greg Lewis on a 30-yard touchdown.
Philadelphia had one final chance but McNabb, who seemed to lack a sense of urgency and was sick according to some teammates, threw his third interception of the game and second to Harrison.
I said all week turnovers would be the key and they were for [the Patriots], said McNabb. As a quarterback you want to make sure you take care of the ball turnovers kill you.
Although they celebrated as a team, one Patriot seemed to enjoy the celebration a little more than everyone else.
Ive never won the big one, said Dillon. Not in Pop Warner. Not in high school. Not in college. Tonight . . . we won the big one.